Spring might be the season for cleaning up your finances, but summer is a great time to stop bad money habits in their tracks.
Whether you’re taking a vacation or dining at restaurants, it’s easy to blow past your budget in pursuit of summer fun.
If any of these five bad habits sound familiar, try these expert tips for taking back control of your personal finances this summer.
1. Throwing your budget out the window
Winter is finally in the rearview mirror, and you’re excited to make the most of the warm weather. But the costs of going out can add up, so be careful not to forget about your budget this summer.
“Between eating out and drinking at bars, house parties, or the various (and numerous) summer festivals, spending money becomes second nature,” warned Ryan Boggs, a wealth adviser at FourStar Wealth Advisors.
Instead of spending all your disposable income on summer fun, Boggs recommends writing down a spending plan.
“Create a budget of what you can spend in a week or a month and stay within your budget,” he advised.
By setting limits before you go out, you can prevent yourself from overspending. And if you don’t want to track every expense, download a money management app such as Mint or YNAB to do the work for you.
2. Splurging on the regular
Another bad money habit to shed this summer is splurging on a regular basis. Treating yourself once in a while is fine, but if it becomes too frequent, it could drain your bank account.
That’s why Brad Ruttenberg, co-creator of personal finance blog The Money Twins, recommends adding a cheat day to your monthly budget, just as you would with a diet.
“If you’re on a diet, a weekly cheat meal gets it out of your system and helps you stick to it longer,” said Ruttenberg. “Same with a budget.”
So what should this cheat day look like?
“Once a month, take one day and splurge a little,” Ruttenberg said. “Go out for a big family dinner, buy a shirt you’ve wanted, or, my favorite, buy something that might represent a bigger goal, like a new piece of luggage for your big vacation you’re saving for.”
By setting aside one or two days a month for special purchases, you can avoid overspending on a regular basis.
3. Going out to eat every night
In our Student Loan Hero survey about financial regrets, 51% of respondents said they felt going out to eat was an expense they needed to cut back on.
Eating out is especially easy to do in the summer, when the weather is beautiful and you’re eager to go out on the town.
“One of the biggest bad money habits you can break over the summer is overspending on eating out,” said Deborah Sweeney, CEO of MyCorporation. “It’s easy to slip into this habit when visiting friends or family or traveling on vacation, and it adds up very quickly if you make it a daily habit.”
Instead of heading to restaurants all the time, Sweeney recommends meal-prepping as a more affordable (and healthier) alternative.
By planning out your meals for the week in advance, you’ll have a clearer sense of how much you’re spending on food, as well as a solid plan for eating that doesn’t involve pricey takeout or restaurants.
4. Carrying a revolving credit card balance
Forty-seven percent of respondents from our survey said credit card debt was the type of debt they regretted the most.
It’s especially easy to take on credit card debt if you’re traveling this summer. Although charging your travel expenses can earn you travel rewards points, it becomes a problem if you can’t pay off your balance from month to month.
Interest rates on credit cards are high — they average 16.75%, according to CreditCards.com — so carrying a balance could cost you a lot of money over time.
As your balance grows, it only gets more difficult to pay off. If you’re prone to overspending on credit cards, consider using cash to make purchases instead.
“Visit the ATM each Friday and take out your ‘allowance’ for the week,” recommended Ruttenberg. “It’s much easier to keep track of what’s left. You’ll think ahead and decide if today’s purchase is more important than something else coming later in the week.”
5. Forgetting about your savings goals
Touring summer music festivals or vacationing in Europe sounds way more fun than building an emergency fund or saving for retirement.
But if you forgo your savings goals now, you’ll risk your future financial security. Instead of ignoring your savings habits, check back in with how much you need to set aside each month to stay on track.
An easy way to make progress is to automate a certain percentage of your income into your savings accounts each month.
And if your budget is really tight, start small. Even saving $20 a week (or month) will add up over time. You might also look for ways to earn more money to kick-start your savings goals.
“Summer is a great time to shift your money mindset,” said Larry Ludwig, personal finance expert and founder of Investor Junkie. “Instead of looking for yet one more way to cut back, why not try [to] earn more? More sunlight equals longer days equals more time to make more money.”
By picking up a side hustle or part-time job, you could set up an additional income stream and meet your savings goals even faster.
Make mindful spending a priority this summer
Spending more in the summer isn’t always a bad thing, but you have to plan for it. Create a budget, and make sure you stick to your savings goals.
By being mindful with your money, you can enjoy the warm weather without breaking the bank. At the end of the summer, your tan might fade, but your new and improved financial habits won’t.
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